This Bell Odometer, patented in 1905 by J.D. Roberts. The odometers were manufactured by Bell Odometer Works of Oakmont, Pennsylvania. The odometers were officially used by postal inspectors and agents who would be tasked with measuring out carriers’ routes. The standard RFD route was 24 miles in 1904, as little as 18 or as long as 28 miles. By 1916, as more carriers began using automobiles on their routes, designations of 24 miles were kept for horse-drawn routes, but carriers who used automobiles found that their routes would be reorganized and lengthened to 50 miles.
Odometers were sold to RFD carriers who were interested in measuring their routes, perhaps to show that their route was longer than it should be. There were few ads for odometers compared with other more critical pieces of equipment (such as heaters and gloves). The bottom image shows a Bell Odometer that is in the museum’s collections.
Curtis Hussey Veeder patented his cyclometer (patent number 548,482) on October 22, 1895. He built the Veeder Manufacturing Company around this invention, which counted each rotation of a bicycle wheel and used measuring calculations to provide riders with the length they have traveled. The Veeder Odometer wasn’t his first invention. He had patented a bicycle seat design at 18 years old, and continued receiving patents for a variety of things, from a U-shaped steering wheel to an astronomical mirror. Veeder partnered his company with Root, forming Veeder-Root, Incorporated, which was still in existence in 2012.